House of Lords - Explanatory Note
      
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Session 1999-2000
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Police (Northern Ireland) Bill


 

These notes refer to the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill
as brought from the House of Commons on 13th July 2000 [HL Bill 102]

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill


EXPLANATORY NOTES

INTRODUCTION

1. These explanatory notes relate to the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill as brought from the House of Commons on 13th July 2000. They have been prepared by the Northern Ireland Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2. The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. Where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment none is given.

SUMMARY

3.     The purpose of the Bill is to implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland in its report, "A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland" which have been accepted by the Government following consultation.

4.     The Independent Commission, chaired by ChrisPatten, was set up as part of the Good Friday Agreement and tasked with bringing forward proposals which would produce a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from across Northern Ireland as a whole.

5.     The Commission's report (the Patten Report) was published on 9 September 1999. In accepting its findings in principle the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced a period of consultation as required by the Good Friday Agreement. Formal consultation was completed at the end of November 1999.

6.     On 19 January the Secretary of State made a statement in the House of Commons on the Government's decisions on the Patten Report. Some of those decisions require legislation to take them forward, others are administrative and structural changes.

7.     The main provisions of the Bill are:

  • to provide for the name of the police in Northern Ireland;

  • to provide for a Northern Ireland Policing Board to replace the Police Authority for Northern Ireland;

  • to require district councils to establish district policing partnerships to provide views to the police and monitor policing in their districts;

  • to make changes to the police planning process and introduce efficiency arrangements;

  • to make changes in respect of the police including: a new declaration, a code of ethics for police officers, to provide for registration of the interests and associations of police officers, to enable the Secretary of State to regulate the flags and emblems of the police and to provide for severance arrangements for police officers;

  • to enable the contracting out of recruitment to the police and its support staff and for special measures to be taken in relation to recruitment from the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland;

  • to enable the Policing Board to perform its function of holding the police to account through reporting and inquiry arrangements;

  • to make new provisions affecting the Police Ombudsman;

  • to repeal and replace large parts of existing legislation covering policing arrangements contained in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 (the "1998 Act");

  • to provide for a Commissioner to oversee the implementation of changes in the policing of Northern Ireland.

OVERVIEW

8.     The Bill has 9 parts and 8 Schedules.

  • Part I (Name of the Police in Northern Ireland) provides for the body of constables known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary to continue in being as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary). It also provides that, for operational purposes, that body of constables shall be styled "Police Service of Northern Ireland."

  • Part II (The Northern Ireland Policing Board) creates the Northern Ireland Policing Board in place of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland and sets out its general functions. Schedule 1 sets out the arrangements for appointments to the Board, whether during suspension of devolved government or during devolved government, as well as staffing, funding and procedural issues. The Police Authority's functions, assets, liabilities and staff will transfer to the Board (Schedule 2).

  • Part III (District and Community Policing Arrangements) provides for district policing partnerships, and sets out their functions and reporting arrangements. Schedule 3 governs appointments and procedural matters for district policing partnerships.

  • Part IV (Policing Objectives, Plans and Codes of Practice) provides for the police planning process and defines the roles of the Secretary of State, the Policing Board and the Chief Constable in that process.

  • Part V (Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness) introduces measures to require the Policing Board and the Chief Constable to secure continuous improvement in the efficient and effective exercise of their functions.(

  • Part VI (The Police) sets out the general duty of members of the police and the duties of the Chief Constable. It deals with recruitment to the police including provisions for contracting out functions and for special arrangements on appointments (so called 50/50 recruitment) and severance arrangements. Other significant new provisions include a new declaration to be made by recruits and brought to the attention of existing officers, the attestation of constables following recruit training, the registration of interests of police officers, a power for the Board to issue of a code of ethics, a power for the Secretary of State to issue of guidance on public order equipment, a regulation-making power on police flags and emblems and arrangements for co-operation with the Garda Siochana.

  • Part VII (Reports and Inquiries) covers the Policing Board's power to request reports from the Chief Constable on any aspect of policing and to cause an inquiry to be held into any matter in a report if it considers it to be grave or if there are exceptional circumstances. Safeguards are set out in the Part.(

  • Part VIII (Police Ombudsman) principally inserts new provisions in Part VII of the 1998 Act. It empowers the Ombudsman to report on police policies and practices arising from investigations and creates a regulation-making power for the Secretary of State to impose time limits for complaints.

  • Part IX (Miscellaneous and Supplementary) provides for the appointment of a Commissioner to oversee the implementation of changes in the policing of Northern Ireland; enables the Secretary of State to establish a Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation to mark the services and sacrifices of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; requires the video recording of police interviews and amends, as set out in Schedule4, anti-discrimination legislation in its application to the police. Schedule7 (transitional provisions) provides for the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve to be used until the new name is introduced. Schedules 6 and 8 deal with amendments and repeals.

COMMENTARY

PART I : NAME OF THE POLICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Clause 1: Name of the police in Northern Ireland

9.     This clause provides for the body of constables known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary to continue in being as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary). The clause also provides for that body of constables to be styled for operational purposes the "Police Service of Northern Ireland". Subsections (3) and (4) make similar provision for the body of constables known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve.*

* The Government intends to propose further changes in these areas - see the detailed notes on the clauses later in this document. ( see also Schedule 7, paragraph 1.

PART II: THE NORTHERN IRELAND POLICING BOARD

Clause 2: The Northern Ireland Policing Board

10.     This clause provides for the establishment of a Policing Board for Northern Ireland to replace the Police Authority for Northern Ireland. The Police Authority is dissolved on the creation of the Board (subsection (3)).

11.     The detail of the Policing Board's status, membership, constitution (including arrangements for appointment under direct rule and devolved government), staff, funding and procedural matters are set out in Schedule 1 to the Bill. These are described more fully in the note on the Schedule. In summary, during devolved government the Board will have 19 members, 10 of whom will be nominated from the Assembly using the d'Hondt method of selection; the other nine will be appointed by the Secretary of State. During suspension of devolved government the Board may have between 14 and 19 members all of whom will be appointed by the Secretary of State. In either case the Secretary of State is required to ensure that the membership of the Board is representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

12.     Subsection (4) and Schedule 2 of the Bill deal with the transfer of property, liabilities and staff of the Police Authority to the Board.

Clause 3: General Functions of the Board

13.     The general functions of the Board are to maintain the police and to ensure that they and the police support staff and traffic wardens are efficient and effective.

14.     Under subsection (3) the Board is required to hold the Chief Constable to account for the exercise of his functions and those of the police, its support staff and traffic wardens. The Board is required to monitor or assess the performance of the police, including in carrying out their general duty under the Bill and complying with the Human Rights Act. It is also required to assess the effectiveness of district policing partnerships and community consultation arrangements and effectiveness of the code of ethics. It must also keep itself informed as to complaints against the police, crime trends, and recruitment to, and the representativeness of, the police. Subsection (3) also requires the Board to make arrangements for obtaining public co-operation in preventing crime.

15.     Subsection (4) requires the Board to co-ordinate its activities and co-operate with other statutory bodies in carrying out its functions. It also obliges the Board to have regard to the principle that policing should be conducted in an impartial manner, and to the policing plan, and any codes of practice issued on the exercise of its functions.

Clause 4: Police Support Staff

16.     This clause sets out the administrative arrangements governing the police support staff. It replaces section 3 of the 1998 Act with some amendment.

17.     Subsections (1)-(4) enable the Policing Board, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to directly employ staff or second civil servants to assist the police.

18.     Subsection (5) makes it clear that the Chief Constable is responsible for the management of support staff. This includes the power to engage and dismiss directly recruited staff other than senior employees - where appointment and dismissal will be dealt with by the Board. Seconded civil servants are appointed through the Civil Service Commission for Northern Ireland and may not be dismissed as civil servants by the Chief Constable.

19.     Subsection (6) defines the term "police support staff". It means those staff who are employed by, or seconded to, the Policing Board, and under the direction and control of the Chief Constable. It does not include staff working for the Board itself, who are covered in Part IV of Schedule 1 to the Bill.

20.     These arrangements are much the same as those already applying to police support staff under existing legislation. The main change is that the Board will appoint senior members of the support staff. Senior employees will be under the direction and control of the Chief Constable but the power to engage and dismiss will reside with the Board.

Clause 5: Power to Transfer Staff to Employment of Board

21.     This clause provides a regulation-making power by which the Secretary of State may transfer civil servants who are seconded to the Policing Board and who provide assistance to the police to the employment of the Policing Board. It replaces section 4 of the 1998 Act.

Clause 6: Provision and Maintenance of Buildings and Equipment

22.     This clause replaces section 5 of the 1998 Act with minor amendments which remove some of the Secretary of State's detailed controls. It sets out the Policing Board's duties on the provision and maintenance of buildings and equipment for police purposes.

23.     The Policing Board will be the legal owner of all police buildings and equipment. However subsection (3) requires the Policing Board's powers to provide and maintain buildings and equipment to be exercised by Chief Constable, who will be responsible for management of these matters. The Board's own buildings and equipment are provided for by Schedule 2 to the Bill.

Clause 7: Acquisition and Disposal of Land

24.     This clause sets out the responsibilities of the Policing Board with regard to acquiring and disposing of land for police purposes. It replaces section 6 of the 1998 Act with some minor amendment which remove the Secretary of State's detailed controls. Under subsections (2)-(4) the Policing Board can acquire land compulsorily by asking the Secretary of State to make an order vesting land in the Board. The Board can acquire land for its own purposes under the provisions of section 19 of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954, which is applied to it by paragraph 1(2) Schedule 1 to the Bill.

Clause 8: Provision of Advice and Assistance to International Organisations

25.     This clause replaces section 8 of the 1998 Act. It enables the Policing Board, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State, to provide advice and assistance to international organisations, such as the United Nations, and to any organisation outside the UK which is engaged in policing activities. This includes facilitating temporary secondments of police officers.

Clauses 9 and 10: Funding Arrangements for the Police

26.     These Clauses replace sections 9 and 10 of the 1998 Act respectively. Clause9 provides for the Secretary of State to make a grant to the Policing Board for policing purposes. Clause 9 also makes provision as to the Board's powers to borrow money. Under subsections (1) and (2) of clause 10 the Board is required to prepare the budget for policing on the basis of draft estimates prepared by the Chief Constable. Under subsection (5) of clause 10 the Policing Board is required to put the annual police grant, and any other amounts received, at the disposal of the Chief Constable who is operationally responsible for managing financial resources. Funding arrangements for the Board itself - as opposed to the grant it receives to fund policing - are dealt with under Schedule 1 to the Bill.

Clause 11: Charges for Special Services

27.     This clause enables the Chief Constable to provide special police services. It replaces section 11 of the 1998 Act.

Clause 12: Accounts and Audit

28.     This clause sets out the accounting systems and procedures that are required in respect of police funding. It replaces section 12 of the 1998 Act, with some amendment. The requirement to keep proper accounts and records of the police grant is placed on the Chief Constable on behalf of the Policing Board. Subsection (1) requires the Chief Constable to send a statement of accounts to the Board. Subsection (5) requires the Policing Board to send the statement of accounts to the Secretary of State and the Comptroller and Auditor General for certification.

Clause 13: Rewards for Diligence

29.     This clause replaces section 13 of the 1998 Act and enables the Policing Board to pay rewards for diligence.

PART III: DISTRICT AND COMMUNITY POLICING ARRANGEMENTS

Clause 14: Establishment of District Policing Partnerships

30.     This clause places each district council in Northern Ireland under a duty to establish a district policing partnership for its council area and gives effect to Schedule 3 which governs how partnerships should be established and sets out the arrangements for the conduct of proceedings.

31.     The effect of this clause is to provide for the establishment of up to 26 district policing partnerships. Under paragraph 16 of Schedule 3 the Secretary of State may, by order, provide, with the agreement of the Board and any council affected by the order, that 2 or more district councils can form a joint partnership.

Clause 15: Default of Council

32.     This clause sets out the Secretary of State's powers to direct a district council to establish a district policing partnership where it has not done so or to remedy a defect in a partnership. If the council fails to comply the Secretary of State may, by order, empower the Policing Board to establish a partnership.

Clause 16: General Functions

33.     This clause sets out the functions of a district policing partnership and requires the partnerships to have regard to a code of practice, made by the Board under clause 19, in carrying out these functions.

34.     The role of a district policing partnership is primarily a consultative one. The functions set out in this clause include expressing views to the police; monitoring police performance against the policing plan and the local policing plan; making arrangements to obtain the views of the public on policing and the co-operation of the public with the police; and acting as a general forum for discussion and consultation on the policing of the district.

Clause 17: Annual Report by district policing partnership to Council

35.     This clause requires each partnership to submit an annual report on the exercise of its functions to its district council, after consultation with the district commander. A council must publish a report and copy it to the Policing Board.

Clause 18: Reports by district policing partnership to Board

36.     This clause requires a partnership to submit a report to the Policing Board on any matter connected with the exercise of the partnership's functions when asked to do so by the Board. The Board may publish such reports.

Clause 19: Code of Practice for district policing partnerships

37.     This clause provides for the Policing Board to issue, with the Secretary of State's consent and after consulting the district councils and the Chief Constable, a code of practice on the exercise of the functions of the district policing partnerships.

38.     The clause sets out areas which the code may cover, including arranging meetings with the police, monitoring police performance and obtaining the views and co-operation of the public. The clause requires any code to be published.

Clause 20: Police Districts

39.     This clause makes each district, other than Belfast, to also be a police district and requires the Chief Constable to appoint for each of these a district commander of at least chief inspector rank. For Belfast, given its size, there may be up to 4 police districts.

Clause 21: District policing partnership sub-groups for Belfast

40.     This clause requires the Belfast district council to establish a sub-group for each of its police districts. Each sub-group will consist of at least 6 members of the partnership and the function of each will be to provide views to the district commander of their district and to the Board* on any matter concerning policing of that district.

* The Bill currently requires the sub-groups to convey views to the Board; the Government intends to bring forward amendments to change this so that the sub-group must represent its view to the Belfast District Policing Partnership.

Clause 22: The Local Policing Plan

41.     This clause requires each district commander to publish, after consultation with the district policing partnership, a local policing plan. This will set out arrangements for the policing of the district and these must be consistent with the policing plan published by the Board.

Clause 23: Other Community Policing Arrangements

42.     This clause enables either the district policing partnerships with the approval of the Board or, in the case of default by a partnership, the Board, to make arrangements to facilitate consultation between the police and any local community. The Chief Constable must be consulted before such arrangements are made. The clause provides for consultation at a level below district policing partnerships and recognises the role of the current community and police liaison committees.

PART IV: POLICING OBJECTIVES, PLANS AND CODES OF PRACTICE

Clauses 24 and 25: The Secretary of State's and Board's Policing Objectives

43.     These clauses provide for the setting of strategic objectives for policing and the issuing of the Board's policing plan each year. They replace and simplify the objective setting and planning process set out in Part II of the 1998 Act. Clause 24 requires the Secretary of State to set long-term objectives for policing in Northern Ireland after consulting at least the Board, Chief Constable and Police Ombudsman. Clause 25 requires the Board to set objectives for policing after consulting the Chief Constable, district policing partnerships and the Ombudsman and after considering any reports by district policing partnerships or other views raised by members of the community. The Board's objectives must be consistent with those set by the Secretary of State.

Clause 26: The Board's Policing Plan

44.     This clause requires the Board to issue a policing plan before April each year. The plan will be drafted by the Chief Constable and submitted to the Board for its approval and publication. The Board may, after consulting the Chief Constable, amend the draft plan and must consult the Secretary of State before publication.

45.     Under subsection (2) the Secretary of State may set out, in regulations, minimum requirements as to what the policing plan should cover. The matters in respect of which it is intended the Secretary of State will impose requirements in regulations under this section will include:

  • the Secretary of State's and Board's objectives;

  • the strategic priorities for policing over a 3-5 year period;

  • the annual priorities for policing;

  • the financial resources expected to be available to the Board and proposed allocation of those resources by the Board;

  • the performance targets to be aimed at in achieving the Secretary of State's and Board's objectives;

  • performance plans under clause 28;

  • an assessment of the training and development needs of police officers and police support staff and particulars of how those requirements are to be met; and

  • an assessment of the extent to which posts occupied by police officers could be civilianized.

Clause 27: Codes of Practice on Exercise of Functions

46.     This clause replaces, with some modifications, section 38 of the 1998 Act. It allows the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice to the Board and, in relation to planning, efficiency, financial and other resources and support staff, to the Chief Constable. The Secretary of State must consult the Board and Chief Constable on any code and must publish it.

PART V: ECONOMY, EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS

Clauses 28-31*: Arrangements Relating to Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness

* The Government is re-examining these provisions and will propose changes to clarify that the Policing Board has the primary role in promoting the efficiency agenda.

47.     Clauses 28-31 require the Policing Board and the Chief Constable to make arrangements to improve the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of their functions in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State. The Board and the Chief Constable will be required to review their functions by an order (clause 28(2)) and to publish a performance plan showing how the Board and the Chief Constable intend to meet their obligation (clause 28(4)). Clause 29 provides for the performance plan to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and clause 30 enables the Comptroller and Auditor General to carry out an examination of the Board's and the Chief Constable's compliance with their obligation under clause 28. The Comptroller and Auditor General can recommend amendments to a performance plan (clause 29(4)(c)) or that the Secretary of State take action to secure compliance with the Board's or Chief Constable's obligations (clause 29(4)(d) and 30(6)(b)).

48.     Under clause 31, if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the Board or the Chief Constable is failing to comply with their duties under clause 28, he can direct the Board or Chief Constable to take appropriate action. The Secretary of State can also direct that the Policing Board hold an inquiry into the Board's or the Chief Constable's compliance with their duties under clause 28 or himself direct that such an inquiry be held. Clause 31(5) applies certain provisions of Clause 58, which enable the Board to ask certain persons, including Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, to carry out an inquiry which the Secretary of State has, under subsection (2)(b), directed it to hold.

49.     The provisions of Part V are, in part, analogous to Best Value arrangements which apply to police authorities and forces in England and Wales under the Local Government Act 1999.

PART VI: THE POLICE

Clause 32: General Functions of the Police

50.     This clause sets out the general duties and powers of police officers. It replaces, with modifications, section 18 of the 1998 Act. Subsection (1) states that general duties of police officers are to protect life and property, preserve order, prevent crime and to bring offenders to justice. Subsection(4) requires officers to have regard to the code of ethics issued by the Policing Board under clause 50 in carrying out their duties. Subsection (5) requires police officers to carry out their functions in co-operation with, and with the aim of securing the support of, the local community.

Clause 33: General Functions of the Chief Constable

51.     This clause replaces section 19 of the 1998 Act. It provides that the police shall be under the direction and control of the Chief Constable and that he shall have regard to the policing plan and any code of practice affecting him.

Clause 34: Exercise of Functions of the Chief Constable in Cases of Absence etc

52.     Replaces section 20 of the 1998 Act with modification. It provides for there to be a Deputy Chief Constable and for the DCC to carry out the Chief Constable's functions in his absence.

Clause 35: Appointment and Removal of Senior Officers

53.     This clause replaces section 21 of the 1998 Act and provides for the Board to appoint the Chief Constable and other senior police officers (Assistant Chief Constable and above), subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. Subsection(3) enables the Board to call upon any senior officer to retire in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness with the approval of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State can require the Board to exercise this power in respect of the Chief Constable.

 
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